I knew that something was wrong with how Olivia and I were breastfeeding from the get go. My milk came in immediately after giving birth but it was extremely painful to feed her. The milk was flowing and she was getting it, but I could not stand the pain it was causing me. I had read many books and Googled how I was supposed to breastfeed but no one position works for ALL moms and babies. Each baby and mom are different. One baby might be more comfortable in a football hold, while another is able to latch better in a cross-cradle hold.
Olivia and I did skin to skin for about three hours right after she was born. She had her eyes open the whole time and just rested on my chest. The nurse finally said lets try to feed her and had all the family clear out of the hospital room to give us some privacy. The nurse helped me lift Livie to me and had me position her across my body. She latched on right away but the pain was so intense. I called for the lactation consultant on duty right away because I knew I wasn’t doing something right. She was latched on and I was doing the techniques I had read about. But no matter how I held her, I had shooting pain in my breast all the way down to the tips of my toes. I had heard from more than one mama that it would be very painful for the first two weeks or so when you first start breastfeeding. I was prepared for that, but I was not prepared for feeling paralyzed from pain every time she sucked. I just knew that if the pain stayed like this, there was NO way I could go on with breastfeeding. Not breastfeeding, unless for a medical reason that I could not get around, was just not an option for me. I wanted to breastfeed and I was determined!
The lactation consultant tried more than a few different positions to hold Olivia in, but none of them offered relief. My nipples were so bruised and chapped within just two days. After the third visit within two days from a lactation consultant while still in the hospital, she finally gave me a Medela Breast Shield to use. I had instant relief! After not sleeping for three days straight and going through the dramatic life of event of giving birth, I was just happy to feed her without being crippled from pain.
I read up about breast shields when I got home from the hospital to educate myself on what we were using. I read all of the pros and cons. They can help with sore or damaged nipples but they can also decrease milk supply. After researching, I knew that the relief from pain outweighed all of the cons. If I had to feed her every three hours each day, I had to use it in order to endure.
Breast shields are probably one of the most annoying things ever invented for a new mom when you have a crying newborn. You are constantly fumbling around looking for a clean one to slip on. I can’t even describe how annoying they are when you are out in public and not in the privacy of your own home. New breastfeeding mamas and newborns are already clumsy enough as it is. Adding a small, clear shield to a small area and getting it to stay there is even worse!
At about 3 1/2 months old, Livie and I were both over using the shield. I wanted to get rid of it sooner but she was not having it. She weaned herself off of it within two days when she was ready. Her latch was very shallow and still caused me pain once she did wean completely off. I had gotten to the point that I was used to the pain and just powered through it. Olivia was below the 10% percentile every weigh in and I was a getting discouraged that she was not “healthy.”
One day, I was reading through a few posts on a local hospitals (where we used to live in NC) breastfeeding Facebook group wall. A mom had posted a question asking other mamas for upper lip-tie doctor referrals. What was lip tie???
I Googled it, like I do anything I don’t know about that intrigues me. I started clicking, and clicking and clicking. A whole new world opened up to me. My wheels started to instantly spin out of control. I started reading about the symptoms: nipple pain and damage, shallow latch, oversupply issues, slow weight gain in baby, baby may readily gag, the baby makes a clicking sound when sucking, you can see a compression/stripe mark on the nipple at the end of a breastfeed (lipstick mark as most call it)… the list goes on, but Olivia and I suffered from ALL of them!!!! I pulled up her upper lip and sure enough, the a piece of skin under her upper lip (the labial frenulum) was very short and thick and it was pinned very tightly to her upper gum.
The first thing I did was call our Pediatrician. I can never get him on the phone so I talked to the nurse. She said their really was no point in coming in because the doctor can not help with lip ties. She actually had never heard of one until I told her it was like a tongue tie except for the upper lip. She got me a referral to a local ENT doctor to save me a trip to the Peds office. When the ENT nurse called to schedule an appointment, she had no idea what a lip-tie was either. I was so confused. Their wasn’t a whole lot on the internet about lip ties, but how could an ENT who performs regular tongue tie clippings not know what it is?!? I told her never mind and just hung up dumb founded.
I finally called the last person I could think of calling locally. I called a lactation consultant at the hospital we delivered in since they are a free resource to use if you deliver there. I told her the symptoms and told her I am 95% sure, without a medical degree, that she had a lip-tie. She told me right away that their was not a single doctor or ENT within two hours that would touch a lip-tie, let alone even know what one was. She let me make an appointment for that following Monday to come in to confirm if Livie had a lip-tie. I was so glad to finally chat with someone on the phone who had some sort of knowledge in what I was talking about. I told her I might have become one of those crazy Google obsessive moms who overreacts about everything. Once I told her our symptoms, she said her suspicion was a lip-tie. Maybe I wasn’t going crazy.
We went to the hospital that following Monday and just as she started to raise up her upper lip, she said emphatically, “Yep!” I might have just found the reason behind all of the pain! She then ran her finger under Olivia’s tongue and told me she had a tongue-tie too. I didn’t see that one coming. I had checked and never saw the thin piece of skin under the baby’s tongue (the lingual frenulum) that is very short and restricts the movement of the tongue. I’m not a nurse or doctor so I asked her to show me. She told me it was a posterior or type 4 tongue-tie which you have to feel for and is not as visible to the eye unless you are really looking for it. Her frenulum attached to the base and was causing restriction in movement. Apparently, babies with upper lip-tie usually have a tongue-tie as well.
It was great to hear her confirm my suspicions, but now what? What was the next step in fixing the problem if their wasn’t a doctor locally who would look at it. She said that the closest doctor what specializes in upper lip-ties was all the way in Jacksonville, FL over two hours away. Are you kidding me? My first thought was that it meant no in-network insurance. I went back to the breastfeeding Facebook page which had gotten the ball rolling in the first place as I walked out of the hospital. Since my parents live where the group is based out of, I figured I would ask the mamas for a reference. They all named the same ENT doctor in Raleigh, NC. I called on the way home from seeing the lactation consultant because we were traveling back home in two weeks. I was hopeful that they could squeeze us in. They fit us in with no problem. What a relief! I talked to the billing department after scheduling our procedure to see just how much it was going to put us in to debt. The woman in billing was super nice and you could tell she got asked how much it would cost out-of-network patients a lot. She told me it was cheaper for us to pay out of pocket and it would only cost $250. That, I could deal with. If we had BF in pain for any longer, I’m sure I would have given up and had to switch to formula. We would save $250 just in formula.
We traveled back home to visit my parents a few weeks later. The procedure was on a Monday afternoon. Olivia woke up a happy baby which was calming for me. I was freaking out. My mom drove Jamie, Olivia and I to the ENT’s office. I made us leave super early in case of traffic. When I am nervous or traveling, I like to leave early. We were 40 minutes early, so I got Starbucks.
After check-in, the nurse put us in a small, cramped room and asked some basic info and symptom questions. She confirmed the lip and tongue tie and got the doctor. Jamie sat in the chair in the middle of the room and held Olivia. The doctor told me to be ready to nurse, so I sat off to the side. They didn’t numb her at all. I covered my eyes and started bawling when I heard her little screams. He made two snips, one on the top and one of the bottom. I looked up one time during it all and just saw so much blood that I started crying even more. The nurse put her hand on my knee and said they were almost done. She consoled me more than my daughter.
It only took a minute to be completely done, but it felt like a lifetime. Hearing your helpless child scream in pain is the worse! Now I know why so many moms opt to stay out of the room during the procedure. The doctor made sure the bleeding had slowed down before letting Jamie pass her to me to nurse. She wouldn’t latch on for about a minute because she was so upset. Blood was just running down her and I as I tried to force her to eat. Nursing helps stop the bleeding. She finely calmed down enough to latch on and I could tell a different instantly! It was so comfortable and painless. She slowly stopped crying after a few minutes and fell asleep.
The nurse came back in after we were done nursing to show me some exercises that we would have to do for two weeks to make sure the skin didn’t grow back. By that time, Olivia was smiling and laughing at the nurse. She acted like nothing had happened. She was a little annoyed at the nurse forcing her finger in her mouth to show me the stretches.
For the lip tie after every feeding, I had to run my finger across her upper gum and then pull the upper lip up towards her nose three times each. The tongue tie exercise was to curl my finger and push it against the underside of her tongue to put pressure on the ingual frenulum for three second intervals 3x. I hated that the stretches had to be done after every feeding. I wish it could be before. I would nurse her to sleep and then have to shove my finger in her mouth and wake her up again. Any mom knows how hard it is to get them down. But it was for the better.
We had to travel over five hours home immediately after the procedure so that Jamie could get back to work. Olivia nursed one time on the way home but slept it all off. She was completely normal and slept through the night. I had instant relief and didn’t even feel her feeding anymore. Breastfeeding felt natural. Not forced. I hated to put my daughter through any sort of painful procedure, but the benefits outweighed my fears. She started to gain weight and not be so frustrated during feedings. My milk supply leveled out and we are now breastfeeding pros. I wish their were more resources out there on lip ties and that it is checked more often. I saw three lactation consultants and my daughters Ped and no one ever checked. How was I supposed to know to check? I’m not a doctor. I just knew something was wrong and didn’t give up, even when I was in pain. If you are a new mom and having trouble breastfeeding, please do not give up! It should be an enjoyable bonding experience between you and your LO. If you think something is wrong, keep researching and asking questions until you get answers.